Some of you may remember my search for the best “Chili Rabbit” in town. It’s a Peruvian dish, on menus generally just referred to as Ajiacco con conejo, although that’s really shorthand for Ajiacco de papas con conejo, because the ajiacco dish is really the way of preparing the potatoes, and the rabbit, or sometimes chicken, or really whatever meat you want, is an addition, or sometimes it’s not even added and the potato dish is just served with rice.

Now, the Peruvian ajiacco, with two Cs, is different from the Colombian, Cuban, or Chilean ajiaco, with one. The latter are more soups or stews, and there are various regional variations. The etymology seems to be some take on ají, or chili, from the Taino word axi. The Taino are an indigenous group from the Caribbean and Venezuelan and Colombian north coasts. I’ve been told, once or twice, that ajiacco is a merging of ají and ajo, chili and garlic, but I can’t find any evidence to back that up.

Let’s take a look at the recipe!

 

So we start with a bunch of potatoes, “sancochado”, or par-boiled – boiled in the skin until semi-cooked, but not soft, and then peeled. Save the potato cooking water – in fact, what I did, is took the peelings from the potatoes and put them back into the cooking water and continued cooking it to really give it a strong potato flavor. Some recipes call for stock of some sort here, but the more traditional ones seem to use the potato water.

Several ají mirasol chilies, and one ají panka chili for color and a touch of smokiness, all rehydrated, a good amount of garlic, some dried oregano, evaporated milk, and fresh cheese. Some parsley just for garnish. Some recipes call for huacatay instead of oregano, usually infused into the dish for a short time while cooking and then removed, as it’s a fairly strong flavor.

 

Dice the potatoes.

 

Puree the chilies with the garlic and oregano, and then saute it in a little oil until it thickens and gets darker in color.

 

Add the potato water, the evaporated milk, and the potatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until the potatoes are cooked through and the liquid has thickened up to a creamy consistency.

 

Crumble the cheese and add it to the dish, season with salt to taste. Serve sprinkled with parsley, and with Peruvian style rice on the side.

 

The chicken, or the rabbit, or the fish, or the… whatever you choose, is dusted in a mix of flour with salt, pepper, and cumin and then fried until golden brown on all sides.

And…

 

…back to the money shot, Ajiacco de papas con pollo, or with chicken, in this case.

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